Students provide services, gain experience
The Wisconsin Center for Information Technology Services has designed Web sites for the following local entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofit organizations:
-- Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, www.baumgartnercheese.com.
-- The Gathering Place, Milton, www.gatheringplacemilton.com.
-- Lutherdale Ministries, Elkhorn, www.lutherdale.org.
-- Babe’s Fiber Garden, Whitewater, www.babesfibergarden.com.
TO LEARN MORE
WHITEWATER It’s not uncommon to hear a proud “I did it!” coming from the small room occupied by the Wisconsin Center for Information Technology Services at UW-Whitewater.
“We’re just so excited when (something we try) works,” said Angela Banike, a junior from Walworth.
That’s because not only is the center providing affordable information technology services to regional entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofit organizations, it also is giving students real-world experience.
Wi-CITS was started by co-directors Paul Ambrose and John Chenoweth last April after the professors saw a need among local businesses for Web site design, development and maintenance; software development and information technology infrastructure development.
“It’s not something they can really go to a traditional vendor to get,” Ambrose said.
Traditional IT consulting firms don’t offer the local knowledge, flexibility and affordability that small businesses and nonprofit organizations require.
“It’s just not worthwhile for the big guys to take on contracts with the little guys,” Ambrose said.
The professors felt it was a niche the students at UW-Whitewater could fill.
To design a simple business Web site, Wi-CITS charges between $1,500 and $2,500, Chenoweth said.
Amy Caywood, a senior from Burlington, said each day and each project present new challenges for the staff.
“I learn something new every single day,” she said.
Wi-CITS is staffed by three students, each of whom specialize in a different facet of information technology services.
The process begins when Ambrose and Chenoweth secure a client. The professors and students meet with the client to determine needs and propose solutions. The students then take the project, which most often involves designing or developing a Web site.
Some clients, such as A-1 Creative Packaging in Palmyra, want their business to appear near the top of search engine results, and the staff at Wi-CITS can develop a Web site that provides basic information about the company.
Other clients, such as Babe’s Fiber Garden of Whitewater, want their customers to be able to purchase products online, and the staff at Wi-CITS can set up an online store.
Whatever comes across their desks, the students are learning in a way they wouldn’t be able to in a classroom, Ambrose said.
“They get a lot of good stuff in class, but they need that real-world experience,” such as client relations and time management, which are difficult to develop in a classroom, he said.
Aaron Patrick, a senior from Fort Atkinson, said what goes on at the center is nothing compared to what goes on in a classroom.
“Class is by the book,” he said. “If you have a question, a teacher has the answer. But here, if you have a question, you have to find the answer.”
Wi-CITS has completed more than a dozen projects and has several more in the works.
“It allows us to give back to the community we’re embedded in,” Ambrose said.